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August 13, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5405

Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi To President Rohani: End Iranian Regime's Assault On Human Rights And Freedom Of Information And Expression

August 13, 2013
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 5405

The June issue of the monthly report tracking human rights violations by the Iranian regime, published by Iranian human rights activist and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who lives outside Iran, focused on the regime's preparations for the presidential election. These preparations included disrupting Internet service, hacking Iranian citizens' Gmail accounts, pressuring families of journalists living outside Iran, and harassing the campaign headquarters of candidate and eventual victor Hassan Rohani. This harassment took the form of closure of his website, arrests of his activists and of citizens attending his rallies, and disruption of text messages sent to Iranian citizens.

In a special introduction to the report, Ms. Ebadi revealed that the Iranian regime was behind the hacker group Virtual Anonymous Jihad's recent cyber-attack on websites and Facebook pages of oppositionists, journalists, and human rights activists living outside Iran (MEMRI will publish a special report on this issue in the near future).[1]She also noted attempts by regime supporters to sabotage her online opposition activities, while attacking her reputation.

Indeed, following the election, Iranian Communications Minister Mohammad Hassan Nami confirmed that the regime had slowed down and disrupted Internet service out of security concerns and in order to ensure peaceful elections.[2]

Also in her report, Ms. Ebadi pointed out that the regime is persecuting Christians in the country as well as violating women's and children's rights, and is also continuing its policy of executing individuals convicted of criminal offenses. She expressed the hope that incoming president Rohani would put a stop to human rights violations carried out by regime members.

In addition, on June 26, 2013, 135 Iranian journalists within and outside the country sent a letter to Rohani asking him to defend press freedom and journalists. They also asked him to stop the illegal arrests of journalists and the pressuring of their families, to reopen media outlets that had been shut down, and to allow the journalists' union to resume its activity.[3]

The daily Kayhan, which is close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stated in response that anti-regime groups, among them Baha'i activists, members of the reformist Mosharekat party, and the fitna (that is, protest) movement are setting a trap for Rohani and appealing to him with illegal demands. The paper said that these appeals would be stepped up as a means of pressuring Rohani. It also pointed out that "in every country security criminals are punished and restricted."[4]

Following are excerpts from the June issue of Ebadi's report:[5]


Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi (image: noppaw.org)

Regime Uses Hacker Groups To Harm Freedom Of Expression And Information

"In [June], during the presidential election, a group calling itself Virtual Anonymous Jihad hacked several websites, among them Humanrights-ir.org, three times. An investigation showed that this group is run and directed by regime members... At the same time, in many locations in Iran the Internet was slowed, access was disrupted, and various websites were blocked.

"These illegal actions are another example of the recurring restrictions on freedom of expression and information in Iran. Whenever time the Iranian regime feels threatened, it attempts to silence its critics and restrict freedom of information with illegal measures such as hacking, blocking Farsi-language TV channels [broadcasting] from outside Iran, and pressuring and threatening the families of journalists who are outside the country.

"Furthermore, this month Google, which provides online search engine services, announced that it had detected politically motivated actions aimed at hacking the [Gmail] accounts of hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

"These actions, which contravene the law and morality, are being carried out after my personal website was hacked and shut down, and hackers used my name wrongly to publish items that do not correspond to my world view. Many Skype accounts under the name of Shirin Ebadi were also opened, none of them connected to me."

Following is a summary of human rights violations in Iran during the month of Khordad, or May-June, 2013:

Arrests Of Pro-Rohani Political Activists And Reformists

Ms. Ebadi writes in the report that "this month, 29 people were arrested; some were released on bail several days later," and notes their names of those who were arrested, among them top officials and members of the Rohani youth campaign headquarters, people who attended a Rohani election conference in Tehran, and reformist activists from the Mosharekat and Sazman-e Mojahedin-e Enqelab-e Islami-ye Iran parties.

The report added that the regime had shut down Rohani's website, and blocked access in Iran to the Aref-Rohani Coalition[6] website and the website of Rafsanjani advisor Gholam Ali Rajaei. It added, "Gmail could not be accessed by users inside Iran for some time. Also, the Avval mobile provider blocked several words in text messages sent by Rohani's campaign headquarters."

Harming Religious Rights Of Christians And Shi'ites

The report noted that the regime had arrested three citizens who were members of a house church in Isfahan, and that it had shut down a church in Tehran. She added that regime officials had opposed the burial of regime critic Ayatollah Taheri-Isfahani, who died in June, next to Ayatollah Montazeri in Qom.[7]

Executions In Prisons, Infringing On Women's And Children's Rights

The report said that the regime is continuing its policy of executions, and that in June, five citizens accused of criminal offenses were put to death.

It added that the regime had prevented women from entering Azadi Stadium in Tehran to join the celebration after the Iranian soccer team qualified for the World Cup, and reported that according to the Iranian Center for Statistics, 1.7 million children in Iran work instead of attending school.

Ebadi To Rohani: I Hope You Stop Violations Of The Law

In the report, Ebadi said, addressing Rohani: "[All] governments are obligated to [protect] freedom of expression and freedom of information. This attracted the attention of senior regime officials. I hope Hassan Rohani ends illegal actions by regime members."

Endnotes:

[1] The hacker group took responsibility for these attacks in a message posted on its website vajihad.blogfa.com.

[2] Tasnim News (Iran), June 25, 2013.

[3] Rahesabz.net, June 26, 2013.

[4] Kayhan (Iran), June 30, 2013.

[5] On June 30, 2013, Ebadi wrote a letter to UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Ahmad Shaheed complaining of the shutdown of the Iranian pro-human rights website humanrights-ir.org by the hacker group Virtual Anonymous Jihad. She explained that the website publishes the monthly reports on human rights violations and that the regime persecutes website members in Iran and closed offices related to it about five years ago. She called for Shaheed to intervene to ensure that the regime respects freedom of expression, to which it is committed under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Irangreenvoice.com, July 1, 2013. Concomitantly, the head of the human rights council in the Iranian judiciary, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, announced that Tehran would deny Shaheed entry into the country, on the grounds that his false accusations against the regime are based on reports by the oppositionist websites. Mehr (Iran), June 30, 2013.

[6] Reformist presidential candidate Mohammad Reza Aref later withdrew his candidacy to improve Rohani's chances.

[7] Ayatollah Montazeri had been chosen by the founder of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as his successor, but his succession was prevented, and he later became a prominent critic of Khomeini and was placed under house arrest in 1997, allegedly for his own protection, and remained so until 2003. He died in 2009.

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